New Energy Efficient Lights Illuminate the Galleries

by University Communications,

At the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, located on the Willamette University campus in Salem, Ore., an ambitious plan to upgrade lighting in its five exhibition galleries is paying off in energy savings and an enhanced visitor experience.

Under the direction of Exhibition Designer David Andersen, the museum replaced 483 older halogen lamps with 483 LED lamps, the lighting industry’s emerging technology for energy efficiency. The museum, a customer of PGE, earned $5,760 in cash incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon for their energy-saving investment, and expects to reduce the lighting portion of its energy use by 75 percent.

“With our lights on up to 10 hours a day, our energy draw from lighting alone is enormous,” said Andersen. “Unlike other businesses, we can’t simply turn our lights on and off during the day to save energy. We needed to find a way to reduce our energy use without affecting how visitors view art in the galleries.”

Two years ago, Andersen and a colleague procured a small grant from Willamette University — which embraces sustainability as one of its core values — to explore the potential of LED lighting in the museum. The results of a side-by-side experiment between existing halogen lamps and LEDs sold them on the technology.

“The real seal of approval came when the U.S. Department of Energy completed several studies of LED retrofits in museum settings including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the J. Paul Getty Museum in California and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Oregon,” said Andersen. “The studies measured the impact of LEDs on a museum environment and showed that LEDs are really good, and if anything, may be better for artwork than the lamps we were using at the time.”

The museum’s previous halogen lamps generated heat, which can be harmful to delicate artwork. Andersen was certain that the new LED technology could decrease the facility’s energy use and lower the heat buildup in the galleries, generating additional energy savings through reduced demand on the HVAC system.

Andersen’s challenge was to find the right manufacturer with the right LED product to showcase the museum’s collections. After considerable research, and the testing of more than 30 lamps from nearly 15 manufacturers, he found the perfect solution.

“People comment that the artwork looks better but they don’t know why,” he continued. “The LEDs have better color rendition and provide an even blanket of light across an entire canvas, which enhances the experience of viewing an art piece.”

The Willamette University facilities department will monitor the museum’s energy usage closely for the next 12 months to track overall performance including kilowatt hour savings and changes in heating and cooling. The project is expected to save more than 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which equals a projected $4,400 in yearly energy cost savings. An anonymous donor with a commitment to sustainability funded Willamette University’s portion of the project cost.

“I think this project will set a precedent for the rest of the university,” said Andersen. “The museum is proof that a simple change in lighting can save energy, reduce maintenance and repair costs and improve our interior environment all at the same time.”

Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and tapping renewable resources. Our services, cash incentives and energy solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save more than $1.3 billion on energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible, creates jobs and builds a sustainable energy future. Learn more at or call 1-866-368-7878.

This story was provided by the Energy Trust of Oregon.